By Sharyn Alden
In the film The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are a couple of crazy adventurers who take the initiative to make their dreams happen.
However, following in their devil-may-care footsteps can be harder than you think. Putting together a bucket list of trips is a highly personal endeavor. The biggest roadblocks are usually time, financial resources and difficulty planning out your trip(s).
Destinations can also be an obstacle. I’m a big believer in traveling to places I know only from others’ experiences – but those experiences have to get me so excited that I can hardly wait to explore the place for myself. You need that passion when deciding where to go.
You need to be a realistic dreamer, too. Don’t dream your bucket list out of reach. Sure, it would be great to sky-dive over the Himalayas, visit indigenous people deep in the jungles of Mozambique or snow-ski around the Arctic Circle, but how realistic are these trips given your age and resources?
For most people, adventure travel is great to read about. But in real life, your chances of signing up for raw adventure decline with every year that ticks off the calendar. You’re more likely to go to famous or semi-famous places with a hint of adventure. Think of it as working your way up to eating the monkey’s eyeball by starting with – oh, I don’t know – flan.
If you need a push to get started, here are some tips that will move you closer to experiencing the world first-hand.
Write down your dream destinations, then rank them in importance, print the list, and put it somewhere you can see it on a regular basis.
Write down why these places draw you. On a separate list, write down what motivates you to experience each place. If you dig deep, you’ll like find different reasons why you really want to go to certain places, and that will inspire you to make it happen. Maybe, for example, your parents always wanted to see China but never got there. If you’re an amateur photographer, maybe you’ve always wanted to photograph the wispy, surreal sights of Iceland.
Tell people you have a bucket list. Talking about it will make it more than a list you keep by your desk. You may also get good ideas from other people who have been to your bucket-list destinations.
Keep a file on each place. Know when to go and how much it costs at different times of the year. Take into account the relative costs of exploring solo, with a spouse or friend, or taking a tour. Taking a tour is far easier, but you won’t have the freedom to explore.
Make sure you have enough time. Factor in long-haul flights. For instance, if you’re flying to Sydney from Chicago and you leave on Friday night, you’ll likely land on Sunday morning, thanks to the 16-hour time difference between the two cities.
Save enough money to make your trip happen. Hong, Kong, Tokyo and Geneva are very expensive. So are Australia and the Scandinavian countries. Research will help you implement an appropriate savings plan.
How about my own bucket list? I’ve checked these places off my master bucket list, but the list itself remains a work in progress.
Istanbul: The mix of exotic bazaars, mosques, Turkish baths and beautiful architecture is unforgettable. To say nothing of Bosporus River water views – Asia on one side, Europe on the other.
Iceland: A mysterious country dotted with waterfalls, geysers and rocky landscapes. More travelers are putting it on their to-do list; go before it becomes too crowded. There’s nothing quite like basking in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.
Leukerbad, Switzerland: You can continue your tour of thermal waters high in the Swiss Alps, at this wellness center where people from all over the world “take the baths.” The Leukerbad Therme is the biggest alpine thermal spa complex in Europe, with 10 baths. Lots to do for families with kids of all ages. Hikers can take the Leukerbad cableway to Gemmi Pass for impressive views of the Bernese and Valais Alps.
Prague: A charming place with its own special flavor, wonderful cheap beer and plenty of ambiance along the narrow streets in the city center. It feels like the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 wasn’t that long ago. Go in an off-season if possible. The crowds are formidable along the Charles Bridge, where art and crafts people show their wares.
Bali: It’s hard to say what’s more memorable about Bali: Its fantastic, deeply rooted culture and ancient traditions or its spectacular mountains and beaches. Bali is also a good jumping-off point for exploring other nearby islands. A fantasy trip like no other.
Borobudur, Java: Many in the Western Hemisphere are unaware of this — the world’s largest Buddhist monument high in the mountains of Java. I walked up a mountain path through coffee plantations beyond the outskirts of Jakarta to get to this amazing place where the early Romans used to hang out. Borobudur is often considered the seventh wonder of the world.
Vancouver: Sort of a cross between Geneva (mountains in the background) and the Caribbean (palm trees and exotic flowers, rose bushes as tall as half a house). A wonderful mix of seascapes, mountain ranges, the flavor of the Pacific Northwest, and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.
The Forbidden City, Beijing: Since President Nixon’s historic trip in 1972, China has been a destination for Americans wanting to learn first-hand about its ancient art, culture, food, and magnificent sites. Go sooner than later; China is rapidly expanding and some of the old cultural sites are closer than ever to the bustle of city life.
With all these trips and destinations, remember: They’re the trips of your lifetime — they need to be protected. Travel insurance is always recommended; with bucket-list trips, that recommendation goes double.
Sharyn Alden is a long-time travel writer with a media-relations business, Sharyn Alden Communications, Inc., based in Madison, Wis. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.